Expectations are high as the men’s basketball team kicks off their 2022-2023 season, which began with a hard-fought opener on Monday, Nov. 7 against Wake Forest University.
The Stags are fresh off the heels of a successful 2021-2022 campaign that saw them finish with a 15-18 record, their best under fourth-year head coach Jay Young, and they will look to build on that momentum this year in a wide-open Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
“From a team standpoint, I would love to win 20 plus games, but most importantly, win the MAAC,” said Assistant Coach James Johns.
That goal may not be all that far out of reach. The Stags were ranked fifth in the MAAC out of 11 teams in the preseason coaches poll, and are expected to be led by forward and preseason first-team all-conference selection Supreme Cook ‘24, who averaged 10.1 points per game last season.
The Stags are well-positioned for success alongside Cook, returning significant production from last year’s squad and picking up some key additions, such as graduate transfer guard Caleb Fields from Bowling Green State University, and transfer guard Brycen Goodine ‘24 from Providence College.
After several seasons of steady improvement, the team hopes the new faces will help push them over the top as they set their sights on a conference title.
“My goals personally for this season are the same as our team goals,” said redshirt guard Jake Wojcik ‘23, “win the MAAC championship and go to the NCAA tournament.”
The Stags received a good test on their journey to go dancing as they began the season Monday night, heading down to Winston-Salem, N.C. for a marquee non-conference matchup with Wake Forest University.
Paced by Fields and Cook with 14 and 13 points respectively, the Stags played a tight game and held the lead at numerous points throughout the first half, but eventually were unable to overcome a wide foul shot disparity and fell 71-59.
Despite the loss, the team largely matched up well against a power-five conference opponent in the Demon Deacons. They will have plenty of positives to take into their next contest against the University of New Hampshire on Friday afternoon, Nov. 11.
It will continue to be a long first month of the season for the Stags, who will play all of their games on the road. The reward will be well worth the wait with the imminent opening of the Leo D. Mahoney Arena on campus.
The new arena looks to provide many of Fairfield’s teams with a home-court advantage greater than anything they’ve experienced in previous years, and the men’s basketball squad will play their first game in the new arena on Saturday, Dec. 3 against the Saint Peter’s University Peacocks.
The team knows it will be a grind until that point, though, with Wojcik describing the away-only November schedule as “our biggest challenge this year.” He remains confident in the group’s ability to rally, and is excited about the opportunity to play in Mahoney Arena when it arrives.
“It will give us as a team a great advantage with having a great fan base to play in front of,” he said.
With on-campus access to games, the onus will fall on us students to go support the team and make a difference. So, as an exciting new season of basketball gets underway, Coach Johns has one message for the Fairfield community.
“Fill the place, own it! Student sections and support from the student body is what makes college sports so unique. Let’s make it the toughest place to play in the MAAC.”